View Full Version : Merrill: Big victory keeps Chiefs in playoff hunt

11-28-2005, 02:28 AM

Big victory keeps Chiefs in playoff hunt


The Kansas City Star

There was a stirring moment late Sunday afternoon when Dick Vermeil scanned a crowded room for Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who was seated in the back. Vermeil started to cry. He stopped himself.

“You deserve that, buddy,” Vermeil told Hunt. “We beat the world champions.”

It lasted all of 30 seconds. By the time anyone could towel off after Kansas City’s 26-16 win over New England, a DVD of Denver sat on a table in the middle of the locker room. By the time the words “Great job” rolled out of Vermeil’s mouth, he was telling the Chiefs to put it in their minds that they were going to beat the Broncos.

In a downpour Sunday, with Tom Brady slinging interceptions and Arrowhead Stadium rocking to a postseason vibe, Vermeil may have found himself a playoff contender. Up next is Denver, which manhandled Kansas City in September and holds a two-game lead in the AFC West.

“I never thought we were out of it,” Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “I never did. It’s in our hands. Why not? I’m an optimist. It’s worked out for us in the past, and I’m not going to see it any other way.”

Stranger things have happened. Like Greg Wesley’s three-interception day, which took place just hours after Wesley and Gonzalez were checking themselves out in the mirror and Gonzalez asked Wesley how many picks he was going to get.

“Three,” Wesley said.

Or the late-November monsoon that seemed to hit every time the Chiefs had the ball in the second half. The ball squirted out of Larry Johnson’s hands on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Brady had New England in the end zone less than 5 minutes later to pull within 10 of the Chiefs.

It brought back shades of Philadelphia, when the Chiefs blew an 18-point lead. Only that was early October, and this is it for 7-4 Kansas City, which probably needs to win at least three more games to make it to the playoffs. Vermeil laid out the possibilities just more than a week ago, telling his team it needs to treat each game as if it were the playoffs.

The Chiefs have won two straight since.

“The pressure is on us,” Vermeil said. “And with our kind of players that we have here, the pressure is an advantage. It brings the best out of us. You can use it as an excuse … but our guys have bought into taking the pressure on and using it to motivate them to work harder, prepare harder and play harder.

“You can’t ask guys to play harder than they did today.”

Veterans, Vermeil said, thrive on pressure. And the Chiefs’ offense got a huge boost Sunday with the return of their biggest veteran, 10-time Pro Bowler Willie Roaf.

Roaf, a 320-pounder with a bum hamstring, blasted the way for the Chiefs’ first touchdown drive, a nine-play, 66-yarder that was capped by Johnson’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone.

With Roaf back on the left side, it gave Green plenty of time to throw in the first half, and Kansas City scored on its first five drives. Green was comfortable and confident, throwing for 323 yards. He looked nothing like the quarterback who threw three interceptions and was sacked six times at Buffalo two weeks ago.

“That’s his best game of the year,” Vermeil said, “and he’s coming on at the right time.”

And, maybe, so are the Chiefs. Their defense, which impeded their progress for the better part of four years, turned in a solid performance for the third straight week. The Chiefs forced Brady to throw four interceptions, which tied a career high. They celebrated when Sammy Knight sealed the win with 2:03 to play, scooping up a tipped Brady pass at the Kansas City 11.

It didn’t last long.

Roaf slipped out of his soaked uniform and was gone before anybody could ask about his hamstring. Vermeil briskly walked through the locker room with Broncos on the brain.

“It’s a big step,” Gonzalez said. “If we can get past the Broncos here. … They’re one of the best teams in the NFL.

“It’s going to be a good one, that’s all I can promise you. This is what it’s all about.”

11-28-2005, 05:41 AM
It bothers me that the Broncos have this extra time to prepare.